It's a netbook-eat-netbook world out there, except this is one sphere where the big don't necessarily eat the small. What once was a fairly exclusive niche market demanding premium prices (with the Psion Teklogix NetBook Pro costing well over £1,000 upon its debut) has burgeoned into a tidal wave of miniature notebooks vying in various ways to win your heart and wallet. It was all reawakened, of course, by Asus and the original Eee PC 701, but from its humble origins things have developed rather rapidly, with the likes of the MSI Wind introducing larger 10.1 inch screens and more comfortable keyboards to boot.
Asus, of course, was quick to respond with its own 10in machine. And, when we looked at its Eee PC 1000H, it beat the Wind squarely (despite the latter's superior keyboard) thanks to more features and its far superior battery life, courtesy of a six-cell battery compared to MSI's paltry three-cell. However, the Wind is back, now in black, and with some important upgrades - including a bigger battery. Will this revision be enough to beat the Eee?
Starting off with the visual side of things, if the white models we reviewed before looked good, the grandly-titled 'Empire Black' one looks even better. Of course it's still glossy, so fingerprints will be a problem, but a shiny finish seems almost inevitable on a netbook these days. And though there's no cleaning cloth provided, MSI does give you a rather nice zipped case, with a fake leather exterior and soft fleece lining on the inside. Once you open the piano-black lid, with the MSI logo now in off-white, the interior of the notebook is thankfully matte plastic; though marks from sweaty or greasy hands are still visible on the palm-rest and touchpad.
Build quality, as before, is decent enough though the Wind's lid does tend to wobble a bit for a few seconds after you open it, and this doesn't inspire as much confidence in the hinge as the Eee PC's more stable and considerably larger version. Still, it's unlikely to be a problem if you're careful, which is necessitated anyway by the mechanical hard drive that's more vulnerable to life's bumps and scrapes than a solid state drive. At 160GB, however, it's not only double the capacity of the previous Wind, it's also the highest-capacity hard drive of netbook we've yet reviewed - so those after as much storage space as possible should find this Wind to their liking.